Asked whether the development process of Sweptail would be repeated Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s director of design, told Autocar: “We will probably never repeat the level of involvement we had with a customer for this car ever again, not because we don’t want to, but because it’s always fraught with risk that someone may misinterpret the end goal. It’s a risk you might end up with something that doesn’t fit the brand, or suit the customer.
“We may pro-actively offer coachbuild cars in the future, where we create the project and then sell the one-off nature to a customer. That’s an idea, not a plan, but it’s something we could do.”
Opinion: why outlandish one-off concept could be the future of Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce looking at challaenges of coachbuild projects
Müller-Otvös said the firm would evaluate further coachbuild projects, but highlighted several challenges, including ensuring personalised cars meet safety laws and hiring extra staff that can hand-sculpt bodywork.
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“We are currently investigating it, more in a case of what we can do and how we can do it," he said. "We have learned a lot on this journey, and that needs a bit of thought now. It’s something we might continue, but there are no plans yet. But I wouldn’t be surprised to have a couple of my customers knocking on my door on Monday and saying ‘I want one’.
“I think the future for luxury in the long-term is to go even more bespoke, and for that reason it’s kind of a logic path, but it’s not yet understood in which dimension we will do it. There is a market, that’s for sure.”
New architecture could help coachbuilds
Müller-Otvös added that any Rolls-Royce’s new platform architecture could ease the way for more coachbuild projects.
“Our decision is to go to a spaceframe, aluminium-only architecture, and that technology, in principal, allows for us to do stuff like that," he said. "But it needs a bit more investigation. I don’t want to over-promise to customers and under-deliver. Let’s put it like this: why not?
“Coachbuild projects are nothing that we would do regularly. It needs to be truly unique and exclusive.”
Rolls-Royce: luxury goods, not cars
The ultra-exclusive one-off nature of Sweptail contrasts with other premium car brands, such as Bentley, which has increased volume in recent years with the Bentayga SUV.
While Rolls-Royce is developing its own SUV, Müller-Otvös insisted that the brand was not looking to increase volume. “We are not talking about volume, we are not talking numbers that are detrimental to luxury,” he said. “It is our strategy that we are not interested in expanding the brand below Ghost, because that would be detrimental to luxury.
“We are not here in the car business, we are in the luxury goods business. Nobody needs our products to go from A to B. What customers love is to bring their own stories into our products, which is why Bespoke is so popular.
“Is it the opposite of what others are doing when it comes to mass manufacture? Yes, sure, because Rolls-Royce is all about uniqueness, and about very special objects of art.”
Customer experience key
Taylor added that the heavy involvement in the development process was part of the appeal for the customer: “He’s got his new car now, but I think he might be thinking ‘when can I do the next one’, because he enjoyed the experience so much. It’s like a Masterchef moment, when you’re in the kitchen learning tricks from the pros. For that moment, he was a car designer.”